The aim of Solomon’s quest—to find that comprehensive, personally-satisfying, perspective from which life will make complete sense—could never be achieved. And because eternity is “in our heart,” we can’t stop searching. This is why Solomon calls this search a “sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith” (1:13; also 3:10). This is also why he warned that “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (12:12). The perplexing human predicament will provide an endless supply of material for philosophers. Because life “under the sun” will never yield any ultimate answers, thinkers will never run out of arguments and counter-arguments, but they will always be the old questions wearing modern garb.
But there is an aspect of this quest’s aim that Solomon did discover. It is this surprising twist in Solomon’s search that gives us the firm bedrock for joyful, godly living under the sun: In the end, God will bring everything into judgment.
In other words, the fact that God’s ways ultimately exceed our comprehension is no excuse for us to live as we please (“I’ll never figure everything out, so I’m going to just pursue my pleasures”); for God is still the Judge. On the other hand, we shouldn’t let the perplexities of life so frustrate us so much that we can’t find pleasure in God’s good gifts. The need for this balance is the reason behind Solomon’s exhortation to young people: “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment” (11:9).
See the first post in this series, “Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes.”